Patrick Offenstadt has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Cross struggled heroically to overcome a host of chronic ailments, including severe rheumatism, in order to paint. In 1891 he moved from Paris to the Côte d'Azur to take advantage of the more hospitable Mediterranean climate, and with the hope that his work would benefit from the brilliance and clarity of the light in the Midi. He made his home in Saint-Clair, a tiny hamlet on the coast. In 1892 Cross persuaded Paul Signac to rent a cottage in nearby Saint-Tropez. Working in close proximity, they continued to explore the methods and theories of the Neo-Impressionist divisionist technique as it had been pioneered and practiced by Georges Seurat, who had died the previous year. By the end of the decade Cross had largely abandoned the use of the pointillist dot, and instead employed separated rectangular strokes of pure color, similar to the tesserae employed in the creation of mosaics. His ultimate aim, as he stated to Signac, was to have "technique cede its place to sensation" (I. Compin, op. cit., p. 42).
During the spring of 1903 Cross made an extended stay in Paris, where he received treatments with electricity that eased severe pain in his left foot. Cross and his wife then traveled in early July to Venice, where they remained for five weeks. He admired the work of Carpaccio, Bellini, Guardi, Veronese and Tintoretto; he felt, however, that the Venetian scenes of Canaletto were too "cold and linear." He filled his notebooks with sketches and watercolors of the canals and lagoon, taking care to note the details of the gondolas and local sailing craft. He wrote to the painter Charles Angrand, "The admiration and the taste that one has for the coast of Provence prepares one for the sensual joy of Venice. Their two contrasted beauties create a happy balance: one is brown and stripped bare, the other is blonde and bedecked in the most marvelous jewels. As it is in Titian's Sacred and Profane Love, the two gaze at one another in the same water" (quoted in F. Baligand et al, Cross et le néo-impressionnisme, exh. cat., Chartreuse de Douai, 1998, p. 42).
Upon his return to Saint-Clair in September, Cross began a series of fifteen canvases that he based on his notes and sketches from his stay in Venice. In an entry made in his travel journal dated 17 July 1903, the artist mentioned a sight which appears to have inspired the present painting: "a boat with orange and purple sails tacks against the wind in the Canal de la Giudecca the quay is in full sunlight" (I. Compin, op, cit., p. 222). Cross completed eight of the Venetian paintings by February 1904, in time to show six of them that spring at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, and two others at La Libre Esthéthique in Brussels.
Recent examination of the old labels affixed to the stretcher of the present painting suggests that it was known very early as Barque à voiles sur le canal de la Giudecca and Canal de la Giudecca. There is additionally an inscription on the top stretcher "Barques à voiles sur la Giudecca." Mme Compin listed the first two of these titles (op. cit., p. 220), but was unable in 1964, when she published her catalogue, to match them with illustrations of known paintings. She suspected that the two titles actually refer to the same painting, and indeed the labels appear to bear this out, so that the painting she catalogued as Venise, Marine was known by the aforementioned titles. It is therefore probable that this painting was one of those included in the 1904 Salon des Indépendants, and a label verifies that it was exhibited the following year at the Galerie Druet, one of ten Venetian paintings, together with twenty other oils and thirty watercolors.